During pregnancy, your health is very important for both you and for the proper development of the baby. Issues like elevated cholesterol levels can be of concern. High cholesterol can be easily managed with medicines in non-pregnant women but when you are pregnant it can be harder to manage the same. It is quite normal for the cholesterol levels to increase at certain point during pregnancy even if you have been maintaining normal cholesterol levels during the pre-pregnancy period. On the other hand, for women who have already been battling with high cholesterol before getting-pregnant, the cholesterol levels can climb significantly higher during pregnancy. But the good news is that there are different ways to manage the cholesterol levels throughout pregnancy and if they are followed properly, the elevated cholesterol levels will not affect the health of both the mother and the baby.
As pregnant women undergoe a lot of hormonal changes during pregnancy, the cholesterol levels tend to rise from the first trimester itself and peaks during the third trimester. There is no need to panic as in most cases the levels get back to normal in couple of months post-delivery. Increased cholesterol levels is purely body’s mechanism to aid healthy pregnancy. An increased cholesterol level has a significant role in the production and proper functioning of steroid hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, which are vital for carrying a pregnancy to term. Likewise, the developing fetus utilizes cholesterol at a higher rate for the healthy brain, limb and cellular development. It is also important in the production of healthy breast milk.
To prevent the risk of heart disease, normally the cholesterol levels should be between 120-190mg/dl. However, during pregnancy, it is quite normal that the cholesterol levels increase by 25 % to 50%. It will usually peak during the third trimester. Therefore 200 to 239mg/dl is considered as borderline high and above 240 is considered as high during pregnancy. However, there is nothing to worry as high cholesterol level is not considered as a significant issue and is not treated unless a woman possesses an extreme cardiovascular condition or if the reading shows an increased risk of health issues that hinders with the normal progression of pregnancy. Fortunately, during pregnancy if the cholesterol level increases, it is the HDL (good cholesterol) that shows an increase more than the LDL (bad cholesterol).
If high cholesterol levels are harmful, low cholesterol levels can also have some side effects on the developing baby. Some of the risk of low cholesterol are:
As already mentioned, generally, no medicines are prescribed to bring down the cholesterol level during pregnancy. Taking medicines to bring down the cholesterol levels can sometime bring it below the optimum level. Therefore, during pregnancy, medicines are prescribed only when necessary and have no risk on both the mother and child.
As explained above, low cholesterol levels can bring about several issues for the developing child. Likewise, cholesterol levels which are quite high can be harmful for the mother too making her susceptible to heart diseases or stroke. Although moderate high levels of cholesterol during pregnancy are not harmful for both the mother and the baby, it is necessary to keep the cholesterol levels from spiking.
Exercise and diet are key to help keep high cholesterol levels under control during pregnancy. Here are few steps to manage high cholesterol during pregnancy:
It is always best to regularly discuss any lifestyle or diet changes with your doctor or dietitian. This will help your doctor to navigate you through the gestation period without significant issues.